As COP26 approached, the UK government used the mantra “Cash, coal, cars and trees to keep the world at 1.5C” to highlight four key areas the conference would focus on.
At COP26, rich countries were expected to deliver on a long-standing pledge, made in 2009, to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to the developing world starting in 2020.
The actual amounts provided are still insufficient, but developed countries have proven they will deliver on the promise this year or next, with the five-year average from 2020 to 2025 being around $100 billion. Developing countries have also been promised a new financial settlement that would see larger flows from 2025, with details yet to be determined.
In the months that followed, however, there was little progress on the Cop26 money pledges. Rachel Kyte and Lord Stern, both former senior World Bank officials, told the Guardian several concerns about the World Bank’s climate programs. Stern said the bank’s resources would be strained by additional pressures from high energy and food prices around the world and the effects of war in Ukraine.
Kyte expressed doubts about the real commitment of the World Bank in the fight against climate change:[The World Bank’s] poor performance in Glasgow and lingering questions about their appetite for urgent action meant coalitions formed without them at the helm. Broader questions about whether the Bretton Woods institutions are fit for the climate crisis are mounting.
The private sector has also come under greater scrutiny. The GFANZ network – the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero – was announced with fanfare by Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England and United Nations climate envoy. It is unclear, however, how much of this sum goes to the poorest countries that need it most.
There are also questions, raised by the Guardian’s carbon bubble survey, about whether investors are pouring more money into fossil fuels, now enjoying a windfall, rather than into clean technologies. There is little in the GFANZ rules to stop them. Carney said it was up to governments to regulate and provide incentives that would nudge capital in the right direction: “Finance alone will not drive the transition to net zero. Finance is a catalyst, a catalyst that will accelerate what governments and businesses initiate. If there is a commitment to move to a sustainable, resilient and equitable energy system, and the right policies are developed, the funding will be there.
Coal was clearly at the center of COP26, although some of the successes initially announced by the UK to commit to phasing out coal turned out to be less solid than claimed. In the dying moments of the talks, coal also became a flashpoint as China and India refused to sign a coal “phase-out” and insisted on changing the term to “phase-out”.
Since then, new evidence has emerged of coal expansion as the Covid recovery has gathered pace, and the war in Ukraine has prompted some countries to consider a return to coal or a delay in phasing it out.
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said coal must be at the forefront of COP27: “The biggest risk is the growing appetite for investment in coal infrastructure . If we are unable to slow this down or stop it, we could lock down our future… If I had to choose one problem [for Cop27]that would be the one.
Sales of electric vehicles doubled in key markets last year as automakers ramped up production and consumers adopted new models. But the future of the market this year seems more uncertain; the war in Ukraine has disrupted key supply chains, and Volkswagen in Germany said earlier this month it had sold out of electric vehicles for this year for its EU and US markets. Other manufacturers are also grappling with rising costs and looking for alternative sources for components.
Many environmental activists also worry that talking about cars is the wrong focus – they say we should be talking about transport. According to the IEA, investing in public transport, making it cheaper or even free, is one of the fastest ways to lower the demand for oil.
The UK has made action on forests a key part of COP26, with a gathering of world leaders to discuss forests and land use and a separate two-day program of events. An agreement to stop global deforestation, signed among others by China, the United States and Brazil, was the first major “victory” of the Glasgow fortnight.
But in recent months, Brazil’s rate of deforestation in the Amazon has reached devastating record levels, and a report on the Congo – one of the world’s most important remaining rainforests – has cast doubt on the government’s will to take the necessary measures to stop logging. and destruction.
Meanwhile, another key forestry meeting this year – the Convention on Biological Diversity (scheduled to be held in Kunming, China, in 2020, but delayed) – is now in limbo due to the Chinese government’s response to the resurgence of Covid-19. It is unclear if or when the conference will take place.
Lord Goldsmith, the UK minister responsible for forestry efforts at COP26, has embarked on a frantic round of diplomacy this year to shore up the forestry deal. He said the UK wanted world leaders to meet every year to discuss progress. “Forestry’s contribution to the overall emission reductions needed is potentially enormous. This could contribute around 10-15% to the global emissions target.